March 2010 Archives

Thu Mar 18 02:06:57 CDT 2010

The end of the HCC, or "The St. Patty's Day Massacre"

About an hour ago, i turned off the last three NetBSD machines i was running at home: lakshmi, brahma, and vishnu. ("HCC" stands for "Hindu Computing Cluser.") I'm writing this on mimir, the Mac mini desktop and entertainment machine. Other than the Linux appliances (Netgear (nee Infrant) file server, and the Logitech (nee SlimDevices) Squeezeboxen) i don't have any other Unix-like computers running in my house. (Well, at least that i'm aware of... oh... crap. I guess my G1 phone counts too. But you get the idea.) It feels a little weird. It's definitely quieter.

While i've been working on this for some time, it still saddens me. The monetary cost (and to a lesser extent time cost) of running this many Internet-connected servers at home had just gotten too high. It's not so much the electricity (though the Alphas do pull some amps), but rather the Internet connection. I'm paying $160/month for 12 usable IPs, 8 Mbps down and 768Kbps up. Compare that with Dreamhost's $9/month for unlimited domains*, unlimited email accounts, and unlimited bandwidth and disk quotas.

I'm sure in the weeks or months to come, it's going to feel good to be free of the responsibilites of hosting my and other peoples' data, and all that entails. It will enable me to run away and see the world without worrying that back at home, in my closet, a computer's hard disk has failed and it needs me to fix it, or the cable modem has fallen of the Internet and needs to be power-cycled.

But right now (ironically) it just feels weird to be... more "normal." I'd been hosting my Internet content on lakshmi for about eight years. The Compaq (Alpha) DS10s, lakshmi and sarasvati were good servers, and NetBSD was a good operating system for them.

* additional domain registrations after the first one is $10/domain/year, but there's no additional charge for hosting more domains.

Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: unixlike, blog

Tue Mar 9 23:25:28 CST 2010

What comes after NeXT?

I guess for Steve Jobs, it was back to Apple. And that seems to have been very good for Apple so far, and i guess for Jobs, too. However, as Ming-Dao Deng says in 365 Tao "Never jump out of the same hole twice."

I took just about all of my NeXT Computer equipment to Goodwill tonight: two turboslabs, a couple of 17 in. monitors (that didn't seem to be working), three printers, and two keyboard-mice-speakerbox sets. That was definitely one of my favorite keyboards of all time. And the computers and OS were pretty awesome, too.

I started acquiring NeXTs around 1997, the first from a financial company dumping some in Chicago. They had been popular platforms in finance, because of their comparatively amazing development environment, and because finance was one of the few markets that could afford them.

They also made in-roads into research and higher-ed, where i got to work with them. Tim Berners-Lee did a lot of the early development of the WWW on NeXTs at CERN. NeXTs ran the worlds first web browser, too.

I lusted after them mightily, but could not afford the many thousands of dollars for them new, back in the day. But i got my chance about 10 years later. I spent many, many hours, perfecting cerridwen and oghma in my homes in Chicago, Maryland, and Austin, and i enjoyed the awesome 400-dpi, full Postscript laser printers, and display Postscript. The ran NeXTSTEP 3.3, (patched), as well as every piece of useful software i could get my hands on. And it was sweet -- those were some good times. It was very satisfying to have setup a "perfect" system, but ironically, it's only really possible when that system's environment is dead, because otherwise, it's still being improved, and the sysadmin must keep making changes.

But oghma had been powered off for many years, and cerridwen for nearly two, so a few days ago, i decided with a trans-Atlantic move looking likely, it's time for me to unload everything i don't "need." This has been brewing for many years... i've often thought i should just get rid of all of the things that take up so much of... of what? Of my time? Well sort of, but not really. Of my space? Well yes, i guess so. Of my mind? Yes, definitely.

When i left Austin in November of 1995, my rental truck was laughably empty, and i could tell you exactly where everything i owned was. ("My high school ring? It's wrapped up in a scarp of an old t-shirt, inside of a boysenberry-flavored yogurt container, in that box, right over there. The one that says "QEP" on it. That stands for "Quality Electronic Parts.") But over the past 10 years i've realized i'm just drowning in all of this stuff. Most of it is useful, functional, entertaining, or a sentimental attachment, but there's gotten to be so much of it, too often, i cannot even find this useful or desirable thing that i think i have somewhere.

For whatever (presumably irrational) reason, the road calls to me, and it says only to bring what i can carry. (And that i should most definitely not be driving a Very Large Truck to "carry" 20,000 lbs of stuff.)

This is obviously a period of much change, just after what seems to have been now a long period of sameness, and just before a very different future. Yesterday night, as i was trying not to kill myself while carrying NeXT printers and computers down the rickety fold-up ladder from the attic, i was thinking about how heavy all of this computer equipment has gotten. "Maybe i'm getting old," i thought, "I used to sling heavy monitors and computers around most days of the week for a living."

And i realized this is the metaphor -- or maybe it's not even that, maybe it's the literal condition my life has been in for the last 20 years: I've been sysadmining all that time, and i've enjoyed it, but it seems as if it's time to spend more time not managing these little boxes of flowing bits of electricity.

At least when i'm at home.

Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: unixlike, randomweirdness, Traveling